Tales from Kilgour Forest

Part 8

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A woman emerged from the woods. I thought a spirit that consorted with demons would appear in likeness to a beast. But when this spirit stepped out, it was as if all that was lovely about a field of flowers was encompassed in her, and the moon seemed to move to shine on her alone. 

 

When she turned her attention to me I felt the oddest sensation, as if someone probed about of my mind. I do not think she spoke, but I felt her question. 

 

Unbidden from my lips came the request for a family; I wished for a handful of healthy lads to grow the business with me and to support me in old age. 

 

Her lips did not seem to move, but in her dream-speak she said that it would be done. 

 

As quick as she appeared, she had disappeared. 

I stood to walk home, but found my limbs to have grown weak and heavy. I took a pace forward, and found out of my shoes had grown roots and they thirstily saught for water. 

 

I stretched out my arms to find they had become covered in bark and would only stretch upwards towards the sun. When I tried to yell for help, no words came out but the thick sweetness of sap rushed in. 

 

I sank into a half-sleep where time became felt solely in the flow of seasons. When winter came I nestled a bit further into sleep, surrounded by a blanket of leaves. In the spring I would emerge to the lingering light to find my bark had wrapped thicker round me. 

Generations of squirrels and birds spent their lives amongst my branches. I felt a strange fondness to care about these creatures, yet it seemed cruel, for with the blink of an eye another generation had come and gone. In time I came to understand the language of the trees, their intricate politics for fertile ground and access to light. 

 

When I awoke, I was stretched out below the self same white birch trees, every limb cold and sore. I ached for home after what felt at that time like a long and strange fever dream. My feet turned gratefully homeward bound. But the homestead I returned to was changed, and the world along with it.”

 

Elias grew silent then.

They stared silently out at the forest. The leaves weaved to the tune of a soft breeze. The sun shone on the work of woodpecker and blue jay. With such a view, and accompanied by a full stomach, Daniel struggled to see any malice that might peak out from the treetops or hide amidst the leaf piles. 

 

“You didn’t even get kids out of all of this.”

 

“I don’t care about that now. I can’t seem to understand why I cared so much about it then. I had a loving family, a beautiful wife, and a prosperous farm. In my stupidity I believed that was a life not well lived. Now I simply hope to live quietly, with not a minute more spent in a tree.” 

They were silent for some time. Daniel’s thoughts turned to the boy who was lost to the tree spirit. That the police believed he could save. 

 

“Did your time in the tree teach you how to defeat the spirit?”

 

“Nay. I still yet struggle to grasp how her power works. The best I can explain it, it was as if she was a net that stretched across the ground, and sometimes when she walked as a human that net seemed to pull in tighter.”

 

“So she isn’t just one tree.”

 

Elias shook his head, “I don’t think so.” 

He paused, “I saw, when in the police’s electric motorcar that your society is much built from iron. I heard in my time old maids tell that fey are hurt by iron. Perhaps the iron has beaten the spirit back further into forest.”

 

Daniel was about to tell Elias that it seemed the spirit was at work again. But he did not want to give Elias a reason for concern. Annoying, perhaps crazy, and certainly misogynistic, Elias was still in Daniel’s care. 

 

Daniel was silent. In his head a plan began to form.